Just a small note, this is where the blasphemy comes into play... but it's nothing more than the series, so. ^^
Claire claps her hands over her ears, wincing at the sharp decibels of Dean’s screaming. Her mother is clutching her hand hard enough to hurt, and Claire squeezes back as reassuringly as she can. She can sense her mother is at her wit’s end about this--her father being thrown into Hell with Castiel, running into the Winchesters again, the revelation of war in Heaven and angels that wanted to kill them...
She used to dream of far away places, of being a princess or some kind of heroine, going out into the unknown and slaying down terrible beasts, or saving a kingdom from some great, fantastic evil. She used to ache for adventure, of some kind of escape from the endless monotony of suburbia, and she and her friends would roleplay these adventures for hours in the safety of her back yard--sometimes Claire was an evil queen, and sometimes she was thief. She used to love playing villains the most, because there had been a sort of joy in being able to let go of all her careful inhibitions. Her mother didn’t scold her for conquering invisible worlds, for capturing her friends and pretending to taunt them with cruel words that were immediately mended at the day’s end. Claire would kill them over and over again, and it always ended in laughter and cookies.
But then her father began to speak of angels and God’s will, began to insist that one angel in particular was testing his faith and wanted him to commit to a path that would serve righteousness. Claire had been raised with religion laced into nearly every aspect of her life, but both her parents had insisted as she grew that she should make her own decisions, and believe whatever she wanted to believe. And even though her father could be a bit... enthusiastic at times, quoting his favorite biblical passages or debating passionately on Christian issues of the day, he’d never actively insisted on faith in God, never said he could hear the voices of angels until Castiel came to him, and her father, Jimmy Novak, consented his body in what he was told was service to the Lord.
That first awful year had been filled with confusion, and her mother with a frustrated worry. Claire was angry that her father had left, remembering with a cold fear Castiel’s harsh words spoken from her father’s throat as she stood on the porch of their house and called after him. I am not your father. It had haunted her, that deep growl repeated endlessly in her dreams, and at first, she’d cried every single night, and crawled into her mothers bed, begging for comfort. Her mother would hold her and tell her that everything was alright, but Claire didn’t feel safe; she wouldn’t ever again.
When her father came back, disregarding his faith and hesitantly begging to be let back into the family, Claire hadn’t known what to think. But then the demons came, and the Winchesters after them, and then there was Castiel.
I must ask for your body, Claire, the angel had said.
Claire had shivered at the voice, which had been both beautiful and terrible, and somehow fragile all at the same time. She could sense a kind of fear in it--a kind weary resignation. Are you Castiel?
Will you save my parents?
Do you promise to look after them?
If I say yes... how long will you keep me?
For as long as I need your service.
Claire knew she could confess the angel anything, because the angel knew her inside and out. And so she told him, I’m scared, Castiel.
And he said, Fear not. I have long ensured protection of the Novak family, as I have promised to your father, and thus promise to you. Your soul will be safe, Claire.
It was a cold comfort at best, and she knew it even then. But there was something strangely endearing about the angel, the way he believed his words so completely... and she knew she had no other choice, so she’d said yes, and was then seized by the rapture of the angel’s warm, powerful grace. She’d believed in his promise, had faith that he would keep it. Castiel would never lie to her.
After that, Claire can’t recall anything other than waking to her father being retaken by the angel, and then Castiel had left them wearing her father’s body in a way that stood, spoke and walked so alien, so stiff, like he wasn’t used to the confines of flesh and bone. She’d dream of this, too, and it would haunt her just as much as before, visions of her father’s body hollowed out and sewn with a zipper so a being as tall as the Chrysler building and as bright as the sun’s core could walk around inside of him, and--
But she’d gotten better at hiding it, because her mother didn’t have the patience to comfort her anymore. After the second time, their days were filled with drawn-out silences and extra bags of salt under the kitchen cabinet. Her mother had Sam Winchester’s cell phone on speed dial, but she never called him, never dared, afraid that her father’s voice, spoken harshly in the growl of an angel, might answer her instead.
Claire doesn’t know how to feel about Castiel now. She doesn’t hate him, but she doesn’t have the faith in God or the angels that she used to. Meeting Balthazar, another angel, with his strange smirks and confident sneering, she’s beginning to think that she doesn’t like them very much at all. She doesn’t even like God anymore, because surely He should be doing something about His children causing such havoc with human lives? Why would God stand by and let the angels start civil war in Heaven, or the end of the world, or let one of them cast an innocent man into Hell?
She just wants her father back. She just wants to be a family again, and to travel back to the land of her adventures, where the evil is always slain, the heroine is always granted her glory, and all pain is temporary and fleeting.
If Claire begrudges Castiel anything, it’s shattering those innocent fantasies with revelations of the truth. The world is cruel, and dark, and scary. And sometimes, even angels break their promises.
Finally, the screams cease. Dean’s body glows briefly, then fades, the light (his soul?) leaving and traveling through Balthazar’s connecting arm, and then into Jimmy’s body. Jimmy’s body glows, then, for another moment, before the light fades entirely, and then there’s utter silence.
Amelia’s ears are ringing.
When no one says anything for several moments, she asks carefully, “What now?”
The angel shrugs, waves his fingers, and is suddenly holding a bottle of vodka. “Now we wait,” Balthazar says.
Amelia approaches him, and steals the bottle for herself. When the angel opens his mouth to protest, she unscrews the cap and downs some of it straight. It sears her throat, burning all the way down, and she coughs. But she feels better as she glares at the angel, and Balthazar rolls his eyes, waving his hand again and making another appear.
“Got nothing better to do, eh? Let’s have some fun.”
The older hunter--Bobby, Dean said--clears his throat. “No, you wake up Sam. We’ve got work to do, wards to put up--”
“I’ve already told you, mate, nobody’s interested in--”
“If you’re not gonna help, you can leave any time.”
Amelia can’t help but notice the clenched fury in Bobby’s voice. No love lost between the Winchesters and Balthazar, that much is obvious. She wonders, again, what’s wrong with Sam, but she knows it’s not her problem. There’s enough to worry about already.
“Well, then, I guess that’s my cue. TTFN.”
With another flutter of invisible wings, the angel is gone.
Claire crosses the room to sit at a chair by the bed and hold Jimmy’s hand. Amelia frowns at her, worried, and then notes the three bodies sprawled haphazardly across the sheets. “We should wake Sam, or move one of them. The bed’s pretty crowded.”
“Yeah,” Bobby sighs, and then scowls Heavenward. “I’ve got a panic room down stairs. Thinkin’ we should move Dean and Cas there, until--”
“Jimmy. That’s my husband’s body.”
Bobby looks at her--really looks at her, and she knows he understands, because he only nods. Amelia wonders what happened to his wife--was it angels or demons? There's just something about him, about the way he hides his brilliant mind behind that gruff redneck scowl, that aches of tragedy. “Right,” he says. “We’ll move them down there, then set up more wards around the house. We need something against angels, to prevent them from flying in whenever they damn well please. Was researching that before shit hit the fan, and...” Bobby gestures vaguely, and then rubs absently at a lump on the side of his head. “You know.”
“Yes,” Amelia says, and walks towards the bed. Bobby follows her and pulls Dean’s limp body to lay down at Jimmy’s other side, and then gently shakes Sam awake again. Sam doesn’t respond, and Bobby stares at him sadly, before sighing and shaking his head.
“Let’s get to work.”
The bottle of vodka never strays far from her hand, and Bobby takes it occasionally for some solace of his own. Claire pretends not to notice.
Death sits in a quaint little Mexican diner just outside of Albuquerque. Typically, he has ordered the heftiest meal on the menu, this one some concoction of tortilla, shredded beef and rice that he carefully whittles away at with his knife and fork. Each time he brings a small bite to his lips, he inhales the flavors in delight. Death is pale by nature, a deceptively frail package of skin and bones, but as Chuck enters the diner, lifting at brow at his brother in bemusement, he knows that it isn't for a lack of appetite.
As Chuck approaches Death's table, set into a darkened little corner of the diner, Death looks up and grants him a tiny, knowing smile that is anything but warm. "Ah, brother. Finally, you grant us your presence."
"Yeah, well, you know how it is."
Death hums, and for once, Chuck isn't sure what it means. He's not sure Death does either, but his elder brother always had been the graceful one.
Chuck slides into the booth, and a plump, dark-skinned waitress named Maria Gonzales (two children, one with leukemia, husband on the fritz, just barely this side of homeless) approaches them with a pad. "Hi there, anything I can get you?"
He smiles warmly at her, and Death ignores them both in favor of another bite of whatever the hell he's eating. "Sure. Get me a sandwich, would you? House special."
"Nah, I'm good."
"It'll be about ten minutes, sir."
Chuck nods at her, and Death tuts at him under his breath. "You've gotten softer since you took that form."
"Speak for yourself," Chuck says. "I saw what you did for the Winchesters. That was generous, by the way. Very kind of you."
Death tips his head in acknowledgment, lifts a brow, and then amends, "It wasn't an insult, brother. I like you better this way."
A wry grin graces Chuck's lips, and he has the dignity to be embarrassed. "So does the rest of us, I presume."
And suddenly, the air grows colder. Death sets his utensils down very carefully, and flicks his eyes back to Chuck. He fingers the thick ring on his finger absently. "Your children are becoming a problem," he says. "It is only out of respect to you that I didn't reap the little brat for enslaving me into this... family quarrel. You must acquire better parenting skills."
Chuck inhales sharply, and pain crosses his face. "Lucifer--"
"Is not the problem," Death says, and lifts his fork again, gesturing with it. "You are."
"You sound like Dean," Chuck mutters, recalling the threats the hunter had made against Him to Castiel before settling into a life of temporary domestic bliss with Lisa and Ben. At least Cas still liked Him--but then, Cas was like that. The angel forgave everything by the nature of being Cas, and Chuck loved him dearly for it.
But he still doesn’t like the fact that Death is right, and he manages to put on the impression of a pouting little boy, despite the fact that he's far, far, far from anything of the sort. "You don’t understand. I couldn't--"
The waitress slides in and sets down Chuck's sandwich, a Reuben and sauerkraut hugged with Swiss and Thousand Island dressing. Chuck smiles at her again, and Maria beams back. "Anything else?"
Chuck shakes his head, and she turns away to clean surrounding tables. His eyes linger over her bent form for a while, thinking of her two little ones, alone and hungry at home. His face falls.
"Maybe you're right," he mutters.
Death nods gently, slicing another triangle of tortilla, and then dragging it into some meat sauce. He hums with delight when he bites into it, seemingly forgetting himself at the explosion of flavors on his tongue. "I adore human ingenuity," he says. "They know how to live."
Despite the fact that he’s glad Death is pleased with at least some of his children, Chuck is trying his best to be indignant. "I thought we were going to talk shop."
Death gestures at Chuck's plate, and cuts another piece of tortilla on his own with gusto. "Eat," he says, and manages to shove yet another large hunk of tortilla and cheese into his mouth, chewing loudly, but somehow maintaining his dignity.
When he was younger, that mystifying grace used to make Chuck scathingly jealous, but now it just makes him sigh. Chuck lifts his sandwich, and the flavors burst like fireworks on his tongue. He closes his eyes and moans quietly into the food, letting the taste linger before swallowing.
As he opens them again, Death is smiling at him, his eyes flashing with amusement. It's quite... brotherly, actually, and Chuck can't remember the last time he'd felt this between them. It makes him smile, too.
"We haven't done this in ages," Chuck says, after a moment.
Death returns his focus to his dinner, and seems discouraged the meal is almost gone, a frown creasing between his brows. "If you'd stop running from your problems..."
"It wasn't like that." The air grows cold again. Death flicks him a look that seems judgmental, and Chuck runs a hand through his hair. "It wasn't," he insists. "I just... I forgot who I was."
Death says nothing, but it's obvious from the lift of his slim brow that he doesn't believe that's all there is to it, even if it was possible.
"Look. It's... It's complicated."
"Only if you make it so."
"I know," Death says, and tips his head. "But it's your own fault, brother."
Chuck makes a frustrated noise and savagely bites into his sandwich. He mutters with his mouth full, bits of food flicking out onto the table. "I wanted them to grow up. I gave them freedom, and I wanted them to use it. I wanted them to think for themselves, for once."
"Excuses. Free will has no place in the existence of angels, brother, and you could forget your duty no more than I could, unless you'd wished it. You have lost touch with who and what you are. Do you not realize your actions or lack thereof impact all of us?"
"They're my children. I just--I wanted to--you wouldn't understand."
Death just looks at him.
Chuck stares down at his plate, putting down the sandwich again. He can't meet that knowing stare. "It's complicated," he says again.
“Like the Winchesters.”
“Yes. I never meant to--”
“They’ve repeatedly altered fate, making my job very difficult. The messes I’ve been forced to clean after...”
Chuck rubs his forehead, and sighs. “It isn’t their fault.”
“And what of the souls, brother? With Heaven in shambles and Hell without a proper ruler--”
“It’s chaos, I know. It’ll all work out in the end.”
Death doesn’t respond, and Chuck is scathed by that silent disapproval. Like Sam aching for Dean’s respect, Chuck aches for the respect and approval of Death. Some things, at least, are universal that way.
“It will,” he says with conviction. “I give you my word.”
Death finishes the last piece of tortilla, and carefully wipes his mouth with a pristine napkin. Chuck looks at him imploringly, waiting for some kind of response.
But his brother remains silent, and Chuck looks out the window of the diner instead.